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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Congressman’s Briber Loses 9th Circuit Appeal

(CN) - A defense contractor convicted of bribing former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham in the largest congressional bribery case in history does not deserve a new trial, the 9th Circuit ruled Monday.

Brent Wilkes has been serving a 12-year sentence after he was convicted of bribing the now-72-year-old Cunningham with cash and other incentives.

The Republican politician from Rancho Santa Fe in turn helped secure $90 million in Pentagon defense contracts for Wilkes' document-scanning and software business, ADCS.

Cunningham, a former Navy flying ace, was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison and ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution for taking $2.4 million in bribes.

Citing declarations from Cunningham that Wilkes never bribed him, and that the money had instead been lost in a fraud scheme run by a co-conspirator in the bribery scheme, Wilkes demanded a new trial.

The Pasadena-based federal appeals court nevertheless affirmed Wilkes' conviction Monday after finding that the supposed "new" evidence was available to Wilkes at the time of his trial, and did not "establish a probability of acquitting him."

"Self-serving declarations by a convicted criminal are unlikely to persuade a jury, especially where those statements are directly contradicted by Cunningham's own sworn statements at his plea colloquy," Judge Milan Smith wrote for a three-judge panel, adding that a "mountain" of documentary evidence and witness testimony also pointed to the businessman's guilt.

Wilkes also failed to show that prosecutors should have granted immunity to defense witness Michael Williams, a former ADCS executive who managed a $9.7 million project to scan documents in Panama for the Department of Defense.

Though Wilkes said Williams could have contradicted two key witnesses for the prosecution, the court found that Wilkes was "unable to identify a single direct contradiction between the testimony Williams would have offered at trial and testimony offered by an immunized government witness."

Williams' testimony that he did not see any fraudulent invoices would not have been very valuable because he also admitted that he did not review all the invoices, according to the ruling.

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